In Part 1 of The Childcare Dilemma we discussed the importance of childcare in small groups, how to get started, and then how to make it happen. In this post we’ll look at childcare options, how to treat sitters and maintaining order.
Small Group Childcare Options
Be as creative as possible. Don’t limit yourself to thinking the way you’ve always thought. That’s important. When our group had twenty nine children, we had to be very creative. We had them divided into three different age groups with three individual sitters. Each age group had activities to engage in, and obviously, we met at a house where we could all fit. If that house wasn’t available we would have had to come up with another creative solution.
Here are some childcare options that might stimulate your thinking.
- You can hire a sitter to watch the children in another home–maybe in the same neighborhood, or parents can get their own sitters as if they were going out on a date. (Although I must say I love having our children where we meet. I want them to see us in community, I want them witness first-hand what it is we value so much, and I want them to experience it.)
- If your sitter bails on you for the night or you just couldn’t find sitters for a particular week, two adults can watch the children, either for the whole night, or in shifts. We recently did this in our group when our sitters fell through. Two people watched the children for twenty minutes each. It worked well. It also gives people in the group an opportunity to get to know each other better.
- If there are parents with teenage children in the group they could watch the younger children.
- Yours and another group could watch each other’s children. Couples could rotate so that they would only be watching children once every five weeks or so.
Whatever you decide, talk about it as a group and be creative. Maybe there is no single answer. You might have to do several things at various times. But community is worth it.
How to Treat Sitters
If you want the sitters to come back, pay them well and treat them even better. This kind of goes along with being a follower of Jesus anyway, doesn’t it?
- Save them some refreshments, buy them a Christmas gift, wash their car, cut their grass. If their family is in need, help them. Serve them however you can.
- This is key: they are not just there to benefit us. They present the group with an opportunity to demonstrate the love of God in practical ways. We should be there for them as well. In our last group one of our sitters had a family emergency. We raised money for them as a group. It wasn’t enough to solve all the problems of a house fire, but it demonstrated to them that they were more than just our sitters.
How to Maintain Order
When someone opens their home to host a group, it’s no small thing. Everyone in the group should respect and steward well the property of others.
- When the group leaves for the night, the host family still has a lot of cleaning up to do. Finding broken toys, spilled juice, and general mayhem shouldn’t part of “after group clean up.” Think what you’d want your home to look like at the end of the night.
- It’s wise to have some kind of ground rules for the sitters and children. Here’s what ours look like:
- We have something for the children to do the entire time, including a snack time. They can watch a video, play games, have a snack, learn a story, do a craft, etc. Mix it up and be creative. There are other times when bringing the children into the group time is more than appropriate depending on their ages. If you are studying parenting, you could bring the children into the circle and praise them in front of their peers. You could have a special time of thanksgiving for mom or dad on Mother’s or Father’s day. Whatever you do, keep it creative.
- There is no roughhousing or wrestling allowed.
- We have found that a 5:1 ration works well. That’s a general guideline that is influenced by many things, including the age of the children and even the age of the sitter
- Children are to be respectful and obedient to the sitters and to each other. If a child is spoken to more than once, he/she is sent upstairs and sits in the kitchen. If the child still cannot control himself/herself the parents take the child/children home. We have never had to do that, but it’s important to have something in place so that parents and children both know that we take this time seriously and that we value our sitters.
It may be a good idea to print these posts out and bring them to group. Read them together and talk about what you are doing well and what you could improve as it relates to childcare.
Community is an essential component in the life of every follower of Jesus, not just those without the childcare dilemma. I’m convinced that there are solutions. Hopefully this guide will help you in your journey.
What’s your biggest obstacle when it comes to childcare in your small group?
What has worked well for you?